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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Lighted Way - Chapter 10. An Unexpected Visitor
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The Lighted Way - Chapter 10. An Unexpected Visitor Post by :dean_z Category :Long Stories Author :E. Phillips Oppenheim Date :May 2012 Read :2982

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The Lighted Way - Chapter 10. An Unexpected Visitor

CHAPTER X. AN UNEXPECTED VISITOR

Mr. Weatherley laid down his newspaper with a grunt. He was alone in his private office with his newly appointed secretary.

"Two whole days gone already and they've never caught that fellow!" he exclaimed. "They don't seem to have a clue, even."

Arnold looked up from some papers upon which he was engaged.

"We can't be absolutely sure of that, sir," he reminded his employer. "They wouldn't give everything away to the Press."

Mr. Weatherley threw the newspaper which he had been reading onto the floor, and struck the table with his fist.

"The whole affair," he declared, "is scandalous--perfectly scandalous. The police system of this country is ridiculously inadequate. Scotland Yard ought to be thoroughly overhauled. Some one should take the matter up--one of the ha'penny papers on the lookout for a sensation might manage it. Just see here what happens," he went on earnestly. "A man is murdered in cold blood in a fashionable restaurant. The murderer simply walks out of the place into the street and no one hears of him again. He can't have been swallowed up, can he? You were there, Chetwode. What do you think of it?"

Arnold, who had been thinking of little else for the last few days, shook his head.

"I don't know what to think, sir," he admitted, "except that the murderer up till now has been extraordinarily lucky."

"Either that or he was fiendishly clever," Mr. Weatherley agreed, pulling nervously at his little patch of gray sidewhiskers. "I wonder, now--you've read the case, Chetwode?"

"Every word of it," Arnold admitted.

"Have you formed any idea yourself as to the motive?" Mr. Weatherley asked nervously.

Arnold shook his head.

"At present there seems nothing to go on, sir," he remarked. "I did hear it said that some one was trying to blackmail him and Mr. Rosario wasn't having any."

Mr. Weatherley pushed his scant hair back with his hand. He appeared to feel the heat of the office.

"You've heard that, too, eh?" he muttered. "It occurred to me from the first, Chetwode. It certainly did occur to me. You will remember that I mentioned it."

"What did your brother-in-law think of it, sir?" Arnold asked. "He and Mr. Rosario seemed to be very great friends. They were talking together for a long time that night at your house."

Mr. Weatherley jumped to his feet and threw open the window. The air which entered the office from the murky street was none of the best, but he seemed to find it welcome. Arnold was shocked to see his face when he turned around.

"The Count Sabatini is a very extraordinary man," Mr. Weatherley confessed. "He and his friends come to my house, but to tell you the truth I don't know much about them. Mrs. Weatherley wishes to have them there and that is quite enough for me. All the same, I don't feel that they're exactly the sort of people I've been used to, Chetwode, and that's a fact."

Mr. Weatherley had resumed his seat. He was leaning back in his chair now, his hands drooping to his side, looking precisely what he was--an ungraceful, commonplace little person, without taste or culture, upon whom even a good tailor seemed to have wasted his efforts. A certain pomposity which in a way became the man--proclaimed his prosperity and redeemed him from complete insignificance--had for a moment departed. He was like a pricked bladder. Arnold could scarcely help feeling sorry for him.

"I shouldn't allow these things to worry me, if I were you, sir," Arnold suggested respectfully. "If there is anything which you don't understand, I should ask for an explanation. Mrs. Weatherley is much too kind and generous to wish you to be worried, I am sure."

Then the side of the man with which Arnold wholly sympathized showed itself suddenly. At the mention of his wife's name an expression partly fatuous, partly beatific, transformed his homely features. He was looking at her picture which stood always opposite him. He had the air of an adoring devotee before some sacred shrine.

"You are quite right, Chetwode," he declared, "quite right, but I am always very careful not to let my wife know how I feel. You see, the Count Sabatini is her only relative, and before our marriage they were inseparable. He was an exile from Portugal and it seems to me these foreigners hang on together more than we do. I am only too glad for her to be with him as much as she chooses. It is just a little unfortunate that his friends should sometimes be--well, a trifle distasteful, but--one must put up with it. One must put up with it, eh? After all, Rosario was a man very well spoken of. There was no reason why he shouldn't have come to my house. Plenty of other men in my position would have been glad to have entertained him."

"Certainly, sir," agreed Arnold. "I believe he went a great deal into society."

"And, no doubt," Mr. Weatherley continued, eagerly, "he had many enemies. In the course of his commercial career, which I believe was an eventful one, he would naturally make enemies.... By the bye, Chetwode, speaking of blackmail--that blackmail rumor, eh? You don't happen to have heard any particulars?"

"None at all, sir," replied Arnold. "I don't suppose anything is really known. It seems a probable solution of the affair, though."

Mr. Weatherley nodded thoughtfully.

"It does," he admitted. "I can quite imagine any one trying it on and Rosario defying him. Just the course which would commend itself to such a man."

"The proper course, no doubt," Arnold remarked, "although it scarcely turned out the best for poor Mr. Rosario."

Mr. Weatherley distinctly shivered.

"Well, well," he declared, "you had better take out those invoices, and ask Jarvis to see me at once about Budden & Williams' account.... God bless my soul alive, why, here's Mrs. Weatherley!"

A car had stopped outside and both men had caught a vision of a fur-clad feminine figure crossing the pavement. Mr. Weatherley's fingers, busy already with his tie, were trembling with excitement. His whole appearance was transformed.

"Hurry out and meet her, Chetwode!" he exclaimed. "Show her the way in! This is the first time in her life she has been here of her own accord. Just as we were speaking about her, too!"

Fenella entered the office as a princess shod in satin might enter a pigsty. Her ermine-trimmed gown was raised with both her hands, her delightful nose had a distinct tilt and her lips a curl. But when she saw Arnold, a wonderful smile transformed her face. She was in the middle of the clerk's office, the cynosure of twenty-four staring eyes, but she dropped her gown and held out both her delicately gloved hands. The fall of her skirts seemed to shake out strange perfumes into the stuffy room.

"Ah! you are really here, then, in this odious gloom? You will show me where I can find my husband?"

Arnold stepped back and threw open the door of the inner office. She laughed into his face.

"Do not go away," she ordered. "Come in with me. I want to thank you for looking after me the other day."

Arnold murmured a few words of excuse and turned away. Mr. Tidey Junior carefully arranged his necktie and slipped down from his stool.

"Jarvis," he exclaimed, "a free lunch and my lifetime's gratitude if you'll send me into the governor's office on any pretext whatever!"

Mr. Jarvis, who was answering the telephone, took off his gold-rimmed spectacles and wiped them.

"Some one must go in and say that Mr. Burland, of Harris & Burland, wishes to know at what time he can see the governor. I think you had better let Chetwode go, though."

The young man turned away, humming a tune.

"Not I!" he replied. "Don't be surprised, you fellows, if I am not out just yet. The governor's certain to introduce me."

He knocked at the door confidently and disappeared. In a very few seconds he was out again. His appearance was not altogether indicative of conquest.

"Governor says Burland can go to the devil, or words to that effect," he announced, ill-naturedly. "Chetwode, you're to take in the private cheque book.... I tell you what, Jarvis," he added, slowly resuming his stool, "the governor's not himself these days. The least he could have done would have been to introduce me, especially as he's been up at our place so often. Rotten form, I call it. Anyway, she's not nearly so good-looking close to."

Mr. Jarvis proceeded to inform the inquirer through the telephone that Mr. Weatherley was unfortunately not to be found at the moment. Arnold, with Mr. Weatherley's cheque book in his hand, knocked at the door of the private office and closed the door carefully behind him. As he stood upon the threshold, his heart gave a sudden leap. Mr. Weatherley was sitting in his accustomed chair, but his attitude and expression were alike unusual. He was like a man shrinking under the whip. And Fenella--he was quick enough to catch the look in her face, the curl of her lips, the almost wicked flash of her eyes. Yet in a moment she was laughing.

"Your cheque book, Mr. Weatherley," he remarked, laying it down upon the desk.

Mr. Weatherley barely thanked him--barely, indeed, seemed to realize Arnold's presence. The latter turned to go. Fenella, however, intervened.

"Don't go away, if you please, Mr. Chetwode," she begged. "My husband is angry with me and I am a little frightened. And all because I have asked him to help a very good friend of mine who is in need of money to help forward a splendid cause."

Arnold was embarrassed. He glanced doubtfully at Mr. Weatherley, who was fingering his cheque book.

"It is scarcely a matter for discussion--" his employer began, but Fenella threw out her hands.

"Oh! la, la!" she interrupted. "Don't bore me so, my dear Samuel, or I will come to this miserable place no more. Mr. Starling must have this five hundred pounds because I have promised him, and because I have promised my brother that he shall have it. It is most important, and if all goes well it will come back to you some day or other. If not, you must make up your mind to lose it. Please write out the cheque, and afterwards Mr. Chetwode is to take me out to lunch. Andrea asked me especially to bring him, and if we do not go soon," she added, consulting a little jeweled watch upon her wrist, "we shall be late. Andrea does not like to be kept waiting."

"I was hoping," Mr. Weatherley remarked, with an unwieldy attempt at jocularity, "that I might be asked out to luncheon myself."

"Another day, my dear husband," she promised carelessly. "You know that you and Andrea do not agree very well. You bore him so much and then he is irritable. I do not like Andrea when he is irritable. Give me my cheque, dear, and let me go."

Mr. Weatherley dipped his pen in the ink, solemnly wrote out a cheque and tore it from the book. Fenella, who had risen to her feet and was standing over him with her hand upon his shoulder, stuffed it carelessly into the gold purse which she was carrying. Then she patted him on the cheek with her gloved hand.

"Don't overwork," she said, "and come home punctually. Are you quite ready, Mr. Chetwode?"

Arnold, who was finding the position more than ever embarrassing, turned to his employer.

"Can you spare me, sir?" he asked.

Mr. Weatherley nodded.

"If my wife desires you to go, certainly," he replied. "But Fenella," he added, "I am not very busy myself. Is it absolutely necessary that you lunch with your brother? Perhaps, even if it is, he can put up with my society for once."

She threw a kiss to him from the door.

"Unreasonable person!" she exclaimed. "To-day it is absolutely necessary that I lunch with Andrea. You must go to your club if you are not busy, and play billiards or something. Come, Mr. Chetwode," she added, turning towards the door, "we have barely a quarter of an hour to get to the Carlton. I dare not be late. The only person," she went on, as they passed through the outer office and Arnold paused for a moment to take down his hat and coat, "whom I really fear in this world is Andrea."

Mr. Weatherley remained for a moment in the chair where she had left him, gazing idly at the counterfoil of the cheque. Then he rose and from a safe point of vantage watched the car drive off. With slow, leaden footsteps he returned to his seat. It was past his own regular luncheon hour, but he made no movement to leave the place.

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